SK Polls resetting under scrutiny

MANILA-- The House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms will study well the three bills filed which seek to postpone the barangay elections scheduled this coming October in support of the anti-drug campaign of President Duterte.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna (Party-list, CIBAC), committee chairman, made the commitment, saying the panel would ensure the proposals were rational and constitutional.

As the chairman of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, I assure everyone that we will study and dissect the proposals concerning the postponement of elections and the appointment of officers-in-charge who will manage the affairs of the barangays. We need to weigh the intent of the bills, which is to address the widespread use and trade of illegal drugs in the barangays, and what the Constitution states. We have to make sure that these bills do not go against the Constitution," said Tugna.

The three proposals namely, House Bills 5359, 5361 and 5380, are authored by Reps. Robert Ace S. Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte), Lord Allan Q. Velasco (Lone District, Marinduque), and Jose T. Panganiban Jr. (Party-list, ANAC-IP), respectively.

The bills are entitled An Act Postponing The October 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, Amending For the Purpose Republic Act No.9164, As Amended By Republic Act No.9340, Republic Act No.10656 And Republic Act No.10923, Prescribing Additional Rules Governing The Conduct Of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections And For Other Purposes.

Both HBs 5359 and 5361 provide for the amendment of Section 1 of RA 9164, as amended by R.A. No. 9340, R.A.10656 and R.A. No.10923 to read as follows : Section 1 on the Date of Election � There shall be synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, which shall be held on July 15, 2002. Subsequent synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the last Monday of October 2007 and every three years thereafter. Provided, that the barangay and SK elections on October 2017 shall be postponed to the fourth Monday of May 2020. That subsequent synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the second Monday of May 2023 and every three years thereafter.

The term of office of the barangay and SK officials elected shall commence at noon of June 30 after said officials have been elected.

Meanwhile, HB 5380 provides for the rescheduling of the synchronized barangay and SK polls to the fourth Monday of October 2018, and that the subsequent synchronized barangay elections shall be held every three years thereafter.

Moreover, the term of office of the barangay and SK officials elected under the Act shall commence at noon of November 30 following their election;

House Bills 5359 and 5380 provide that the term of all incumbent barangay officials shall be deemed terminated upon the effectivity of the Act and that officers-in-charge shall be appointed by the President.

House Bill 5380 repeals Section 5 of RA 9164 as amended by RA 9340 and RA 10923 or the 'hold over' provision and replaced by the following: Section 5. Upon the expiration of the original extension on the fourth Monday of October 2017, all positions of the barangay and SK officials are deemed vacated by virtue of the expiration of their term. The President shall be given the power to appoint the officials to all vacated positions, and these appointed officials shall continue to assume office until the next scheduled elections in 2018.

Barbers said the country's barangays serve as the people's first line of defense in the grassroots level and because of this, they must lead the government's fight against illegal drugs and must maintain a proactive stand in protecting the ordinary people from the drug menace.

But how will the barangays spearhead this war against illegal drugs if some barangay officials are protectors of drug lords, said Barbers, chairman of th House committee on dangerous drugs.

Barbers said President Duterte himself wanted to postpone said elections because the chief executive does not want those being financially supported by drug lords to win. Barbers said the President had also stated that if the barangay elections would proceed as planned, the winners might be financed by drug money.

Panganiban said the country's illegal drug problem has now penetrated the basic institution of the government, the barangays, and over 40,000 barangay officials have been reported to be involved in the illicit drug use and drug trade.

Narco politics has already thrived in the barangays, making the coming synchronized barangay and SK elections vulnerable in the midst of the current administration's war against illegal drugs and that drug money will be at the center of this political and electoral exercise, said Panganiban, chairman of the committee on agriculture and food.

Velasco said the barangay and SK elections slated for this year should be postponed to a date in the immediate future to allow the government as well as the citizens to adequately prepare for the multifarious demands called for in the conducting these elections.

The repercussions of holding the barangay and SK elections in the same year as the national presidential elections cannot be ignored, as this will mean yet another release and expenditure of taxpayers' money, on top of the substantial amounts already released and expended in the recently concluded national elections, said Velasco, chairman of the committee on energy.

Source: Philippines News Agency